Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top 10 books on our TBR list this fall

Question:  Top 10 books on our TBR list this fall

Answer: This week we’re being asked to look into our crystal balls and forecast our fall reading endeavors.  Tricky business to say with certainty, but we (Evan) do have more than a few titles we’re looking forward to...

1.      The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) - It’s been far too long since we went through this series.  We started The Magician’s Nephew this week and hope to finish the series before winter.

2.      Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) – Don’t have a clue what this novel is about, but at number 13, it’s the highest ranked unread novel for us on the BBC list.  Hope it’s good.

3.      Night Watch (Terry Pratchett) – The changing seasons just wouldn’t feel right without a Discworld novel to get excited about.

4.      A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin) – It’s finally time to check out this series and make sure it lives up to all the hype.  We hope so! 

5.      Wolves of the Calla (Stephen King) – We took a nice long sabbatical after Wizard and Glass, but this fall will be the perfect time to get back to the Dark Tower series.

6.      Schindler’s List (Thomas Keneally) – A little apprehensive to take on such a weighty read, but it’s already on the schedule for the Books to Movies Challenge!

7.      Thank You, Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse) – Need to schedule a good laugh to offset the sad fact that summer is gone... Jeeves and Wooster are the perfect solution.

8.      Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake) – We felt very underwhelmed by book 1 in this series, but we’re hopeful redemption lies somewhere within book 2.

9.      The Kalahari Typing School for Men (Alexander McCall Smith) – Love The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and can’t wait to continue on to book 4.

10.  Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand) – Need to throw something uplifting into the mix and this book has come highly recommended from several reliable sources.

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Les Miserables

Les MisérablesLes Miserables – Victor Hugo
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Sexual Content, Mild Language, Feats of Strength, Epic Wedding Speeches)

Why:  How do we even begin to review a book like Les Miserables?  Seriously, we’d love some assistance over here.  We’ll do our best to express our thoughts, but be forewarned that conflicting opinions are posturing to be heard.  The fact that Jean Valjean is our new fiction role model is one matter not up for debate!

Providing any kind of comprehensive summary for this novel is far too ambitious for our tastes.  Fortunately, all any prospective reader needs to know is that there’s a thief, a police inspector, an ill-treated girl, a lawyer, and all kinds of various miscreants.  Against a backdrop of war and revolution the fates of said characters are intertwined to create all kinds of high drama, treachery, and feats of strength.           

Les Miserables is a beautifully written, epic masterpiece that far exceeded our expectations.  Admittedly, we had been dreading this read for several months so the bar was set pretty low.  And at 500,000 plus words, we just wanted to survive until the end...  Not only did we survive, but we were left with a new appreciation for the history of France and all kinds of weighty social questions to ponder.  Les Miserables is a book of despair and second chances.  Most importantly, the novel is about the many choices that ultimately define a person’s life.  

In our opinion the characters were the strongest aspect of the book.  There was a good bit about the battle of Waterloo that critics have swooned over, but those parts were overshadowed by the presence of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert.  Both of these characters had the ability to add instant “hold-on-because-something-big-is-about-to-happen” to the plot.  Jean Valjean was fascinating and his character provided so much hope for the human spirit.  The character of Javier was equally remarkable in his single-mindedness towards order and law, although not quite as likeable.  Okay, his likeability hardly registered... but he was still an interesting character. 

Our only annoyance with Les Miserables was all the tedious digressions littered throughout.  We sat through entire chapters dedicated to the appropriateness of slang in literature and the complex, yet often inadequate use of the Paris sewer system.  Why do so many “long” novels feel the need to add these sleepy asides?  Admittedly, not all the extra bits failed to grab our attention and some of the commentary was actually interesting, especially the few drunken rants that helped set the atmosphere.  Still, in the end, we just wanted to get back to the main storyline. 

Overall, Les Miserables was beautiful and emotional throughout.  The end in particular wasn’t rushed and fit nicely with the rest of the novel (this is a big deal for us).  We have a new fondness for silver candlesticks and experienced one of the most epic wedding speeches of all time.  Now we’re out of breath.... long live Jean Valjean!

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Meme for Friday!

We thought it might be fun to try out a different meme this Friday...  Prepare yourself for TGIF hosted by GReads! 

Question:  Which genre, authors, or particular books do you think people associate with your reading style?

Answer: As much as possible we try to promote equal opportunity reading.  One glance at our respective top 25 lists (Evan’s here and Erin’s here) will show that our tastes are truly eclectic.  We tend to favor the classics; however we engage in a healthy amount of genre hoping whenever possible.  Some of our favorite genres include: historical, fantasy, dystopian, mystery, and countless others that seem to be escaping us at the moment.   

Don’t forget to check out our very first GRAPHIC REVIEW, which is just as groundbreaking as it is disturbing...  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Persepolis - A Graphic Review

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Language, Oppression, Courageous Acts)

Why:  Well, here goes nothing......   

Inspired by the wonderful Graphic Novel Persepolis, we are proud to introduce the first ever Two Bibliomanics Graphic Review.  Feel free to cringe....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top 10 books we loved but never wrote a review

Question: Top 10 books we loved but never wrote a review

Answer:  Apparently this week we get to highlight our shortcomings.  That’s right, we get to admit that we’ve been lazy and haven’t reviewed some of our favorite books.  Actually, this week’s reflections have been rather inspiring.  How did we miss some of the wonderful books on our list?  We’ll get on that right away....

1.   Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson) – Such a great book... definitely deserves a review!
2.   Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) – Honestly, we had no idea this book slipped through the cracks.  Alas, our tracking spreadsheet has failed us...
3.   Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers) – One of the few novels to make it onto our (Erin’s) top 25 lists without an official Two Bibliomaniacs review.  Unacceptable...
4.   Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi) – With our limited experience in the world of graphic novels, we found it difficult to capture the brilliance of this book in written form.  We have this grand vision to do the review in graphic novel form... stay tuned!
5.   The Help (Kathryn Stockett) – In our defense, this one was a recent read and we’re still waiting to see the movie so that we can incorporate our thoughts.  No excuses... our babysitters have been busy.   
6.   Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) – Here’s another one that we thought had already been reviewed.  It’s probably been on so many top 10 lists that we got confused.  
7.   The Waste Lands (Stephen King) – Before we review number 3 in the Gunslinger series, we need to review number 2.  3 was great, 2 was just okay.  Motivational issues here...

8.   The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon) – Yep, we really need to review this very original book

9.   Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett) – Our opinion of the Discworld series after book 1 and book 2 represents one of the more epic flip-flops in the history of literature.  The series is officially off probation and we plan to read and review every Discworld book we can get our hands on!
10. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) – Each month this book shows up on our elaborate whiteboard as a potential review (actually, it’s more like a scrap piece of paper), and yet each month this one gets passed up.  Not sure why.

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (Dover Value Editions)Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG (Mild Violence, Boating, Incompetence)

“I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man.  I crawled out a decrepit wreck.”

“Everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came down upon him for the funeral expenses.”

Why: This novel is classic comedic gold! Given, we’re most likely still basking in the afterglow, but it’s been awhile since uncontrollable laughter spewed forth from our (Evan's) vocal cords during a read.    

After self diagnosing himself to have every notable medical calamity (other than housemaid’s knee) the narrator received strict orders from his doctor to relax and get some fresh air.  It is soon decided that a boat trip down the Thames River is in order.  Joined by his two closest friends and dog, the narrator sets out at once.  Whether or not the trio actually experience a state of relaxation on their vacation is debatable, however the hilarity of their misadventures is not.    

Never would we agree to spend any vacation time with the characters from Three Men in a Boat; however reading about them while on vacation would be quite enjoyable.  The narrator’s dry and oblivious manner of capturing the comedic elements within a series of events was masterful.  A random incident would suddenly trigger a memory or rant that could go off in any direction.  At one point we were reading about how tow-lines have a tendency to self tangle and then several chapters later we learned how inconsiderate Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were for making out all over England.  Honestly, the humor is comparable to the genius of P.G. Wodehouse and we can only imagine what would happen if Bertie Wooster was thrown into the mix. 

Our only criticism was that the flow was a bit unbalanced (much like the characters) at times.  A humorous account of three men trying to construct a canvas above their boat might happen to follow a more somber and detailed account of Magna Carta Island.  Otherwise, Three Men in a Boat was some of the funniest classical literature we’ve come across.  Anytime a novel can solicit laughter on multiple occasions it gets the privilege, nay, honor of receiving our stamp of approval.   

Editors Note: Contrary to what the above highlighted quote might have you believe; we love our mother-in-laws!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blog Hop - Aug 19

It’s been a while since our last hop and this week’s question over at Crazy for Books didn’t make our brain hurt too much, so....

Question:  What’s the LONGEST book you’ve ever read?

Answer: According to Wikipedia the longest fiction novel we (Evan) every read was Atlas Shrugged at 645,000 words (1,450ish pages), although A Suitable Boy FELT like the longest book we every read at 591,552 words (1,349 pages).  Les Miserables, which we just finished earlier this week was one of the best “long” novels we every read (listened), standing in at 513,000 words (1,350ish).     

Wow, 3 answers for the price of 1, talk about value.  Then again that’s what we’re all about here at Two Bibliomaniacs.... oh, and books.  Give us a follow and we’ll be sure to return the favor!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 10 Best Books Never Before Highlighted During Top 10 Tuesday!

Question: Top 10 Best Books Never Before Highlighted During Top 10 Tuesday!

Answer:  For this week’s “Freebie” we decided to take a slight turn to the right.  We pride ourselves in reading a variety of books, yet sometimes feel the same books keep appearing on our Top 10 lists.  Soooo, for this week only, our list will include books never before highlighted during a previous Top 10 Tuesday. 

Our heavily funded research department uncovered some pretty interesting facts.  Over the past 8-ish months we’ve highlighted a total of 110 different books during these always memorable Tuesdays.  The leader board includes: Harry Potter series (17 times), Gone with the Wind (15 times), To Kill a Mockingbird (14 times), Pride and Prejudice (11 times), and I Capture the Castle (11 times).  We were just as surprised to find that The Eyre Affair wasn’t closer to the top??? 

Anyway, below are some of the books we’ve ignored in the past that maybe shouldn’t have been...       

  1. A Pale View of Hills (Kazuo Ishiguro) – This novel stands as our (Evan’s) most recent read.  Ishiguro is a master of revealing the plot in slow and small doses and we literally didn’t put the pieces together until the final page.  No, this wasn’t on account of our dimness, but Ishiguro’s writing....
  2. Something Wicked this Way Comes (Ray Bradbury) – Seriously good Ray Bradbury, or should we say Wicked Good Ray Bradbury (phrase best used in conjunction with a heavy Boston accent).  With characters like Monsieur Guillotine and Mr. Electrico this novel is well worth your time.
  3. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren) – We must highlight this novel for no other reason than our 6 year old son laughed hysterically when Pippi had to self-punish herself for not going to bed on time.   Great children’s novel!
  4. I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be your Class President (Josh Lieb) – Not quite sure how this book didn’t make it onto some kind of past 10 ten list.  Quite funny and only mildly depressing.
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon) – This is another very original book with plenty to offer a perspective reader (a little heavy on the language for those who might need to cover their literary ears).
  6. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) – For anyone interested in the classics, this is one of the best mysteries for your money.  Plenty of intrigue with a very interesting narrative and some great bad guys thrown in for good measure.
  7. The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) – A great haunted house story that will give you the creeps without being too dark.  Watch-out for that tree!
  8. Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein) – For anyone interested in some good old fashion Sci-fi, this one should do the trick.  A little heavy (okay, a lot heavy) on the military tactical side, but overall an interesting read.
  9. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) – Whenever we think of this book it brings a good-humored smile to our face.  Chances are it will do the same thing to your face.
  10. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) – The high quality of this book is no secret, or at least if shouldn’t bee.

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Titus Groan

Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy, #1)Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake
Evan’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Scheming, Wicked Huge Castles)

Why: Anytime the librarian gives you an overly inquisitive expression for sporting a great big cheesy smile it usually means you’ve got a great book in your hands (it could also mean that your youngest child just knocked over the graphic novel display and you’re trying to pretend like nothing happened, but *gulp* something like that would never happen to us).  On this particular occasion, Titus Groan was the cause for said cheesy smile.  Unfortunately, our return trip to the library consisted of slummed shoulders, dragging feet and a crocodile tear in the corner of our left eye, though the tear had more to do with an annoyingly dry contact, but still...

The novel begins with a fair amount of rejoicing over the birth of Titus Groan, aka, the new heir to the Gormenghast throne.  However, young Titus quickly fades into oblivion to make way for more sinister happening at the castle and for a young kitchen servant named Steerpike.  The ambitious teen has visions of grandeur and immediately puts plans in motion to increase his relevance.  By the time young Titus is ready for his coronation, the stage is set for a battle of power and greed and deceit all against the backdrop of a really, really, really big castle.  

Okay, Titus Groan wasn’t as bad as the opening illustration portrayed (yes, we have a flair for the dramatics), but it was far too slow and wordy for our tastes in fantasy novels.  The other problem was the setting.  For whatever reason we had a difficult time visualizing the castle, which is strange considering half the novel is devoted to its description.  We appreciate the fact that Gormenghast Castle is flippin huge, but we couldn’t seem to get our imagination around the more intimate details.  Maybe we need to brush up on our castle vernacular...  To add to our dissatisfaction, we were quite appalled by a certain event that had a very negative outcome on the castle’s impressive library...  Book violence is unacceptable!!!

It would be unfair not to briefly mention the impressive writing (when it wasn’t impressively descriptive) and the fact that we did enjoy the cast.  Steerpike, Flay, and Lord Sepulchrave were all interesting and charismatic despite one of them being directly involved in the aforementioned library incident.  Yep, we’re still a bit raw.  There’s also a pair of twin sisters that bring a fair amount of intrigue and creepiness to the table.

In the end, we must get over our less than enthusiastic feelings because it’s full speed ahead...  Gormenghast appears in TRILOGY form at number 84 on the BBC big read.  We WILL triumph over this entire list... someday!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Top 10 Underrated Books

Question: Top 10 Underrated Books

Answer:  Our fierce loyalty to the BBC Big Read list means that most of the novels we read are hardly suffering for name recognition.  Yet, we feel that these wonderful titles below deserve even more appreciation within the world of literature...    

1.      I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith) – Even with J.K. Rowling’s endorsement, this novel deserves more recognition.  Quite possibly our favorite narrator of all time!

2.      Bag of Bones (Stephen King) – It’s difficult to classify any Stephen King novel as underrated, but within his body of work, this novel deserves more hoopla.  

3.      The Eyre Affair (Jaspier Fforde) – Until every single literary minded person in the world has read (and enjoyed) this novel it will remain underrated.  Sadly, one of the co-editors of this blog is still fighting the current.

4.      Magic Kingdom for Sales – Sold (Terry Brooks) – We get that the whole Shannara series was way more popular, but we think the Landover series is way more better.

5.      Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome) – We just finished this novel yesterday and may still be basking in the afterglow, but this novel is seriously funny classical literature.  Seriously. 

6.      Stardust (Neil Gaiman) – One of the Two Bibliomaniacs will vehemently disagree, but this is our (Evan’s) favorite Neil Gaiman book, although Neverwhere wasn’t half bad.

7.      Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome) – In the world of YA sailing novels, this novel stands alone.  Plus the first edition cover is seriously cool.

8.      Northanger Abby (Jane Austen) – Of all the Jane Austen novels, this one deserves more attention.  One of her more readable novels with an underrated love story.

9.      The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (Alexander McCall Smith) – A fantastic book with a fantastic cast of characters!

10.  A Room with a View (E.M. Forster) – We’ve said it before and we’re saying it now, but the romance between George and Lucy may possibly be the most underrated in all of literature.

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


EnchantmentEnchantment – Orson Scott Card
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Noteworthy Kisses, Awkward Social Situations)

"The old tale of Sleeping Beauty might end happily in French or English, but he was in Russia, and only a fool would want to live through the Russian version of any fairy tale."

Why: As tempting as it is, we promise not to use any form of the actual title to describe the novel itself.  Instead, we’ll go in record and say that Enchantment was entrancing, enthralling engrossing, and dare we say enrapturing.   Whew, that was close...

When Ivan Smetski decides to enjoy an Enchanti invigorating jog in the woods he has no idea a parallel account of Sleeping Beauty (Russian style) is waiting right around the corner.  As it happens, Ivan stumbles across a mysterious sleeping girl and with one innocent kiss, transforms his life and her life forever.  Two very different centuries collide as the pair embark on an epic journey to bring stability to an ancient kingdom and peace of mind to a mother that wants her son to marry.  Needless to say there’s plenty of drama before happily ever after.  We mean IF there’s happily ever after...

This was our second experience with Mr. Card and following a novel as successful as Ender’s Game we didn’t know what to expect.  What we got was not at all what we expected yet in the end our experience exceeded expectations.  Make sense?  The bottom line: Enchantment is a highly intelligent fairy tale.  Philosophy, morality, cultural differences, and folklore all collide in this fun and exciting adventure.  Honestly, it felt a tad like Outlander.  Although, we really didn’t like Outlander (backlash expected) and we did like this novel, so maybe this is a bad comparison. 

We’re kind of all over the place with this review, but one of the features we enjoyed the most was seeing someone from our time period (assuming you’ve spent a majority of your life in the 21st century) experience Medieval living and vice versa.  The reactions to each society felt real as did the frustrations and adjustments each character was forced to make.  We also enjoyed reading about the communication difficulties between Ivan and Katerina, which felt true for anyone trying to manage a relationship that spans across several centuries.  

Enchanting was in a word: Enchanting.  Sorry, the temptation was too great...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Books to Movies Challenge - August Check In

Time for the official Books to Movies Challenge August Check-in!  Yikes, that was a mouthful.  We saw some great reviews in July and it would appear Books have reasserted their natural strength.  All is right with the world again...    

We’re still stuck on review number 2, although we did complete The Help read and are anxiously awaiting the movie release.  Hopefully we’ll be able to make some better progress in August!!!

Be sure to include any of your recent reviews in the below Linky! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge Update - July

Another month in the books and we’re (Evan) so close to completing several of our reading challenges that we can almost taste it.  Although, if we’re honest, the flavor could also be a bit of peach cobbler stuck in our teeth from lunch.  Any whooo...

Statistically speaking, July resulted in the lightest reading month of the year.  As we typically like to pass blame onto others, we’ll highlight Jean Valjean as the primary reason for our weak stats.  Les Misérables is a monster of a book (although quite enjoyable so far) that took us half the year to finally work up the courage to start.  Jean Valjean might also be to blame for a light August.

With titles like The Woman in White, The Help, Radical, and The Phantom of the Opera July was a worthy reading month.  The jury’s still out on Rabbit, Run (possibly for awhile) though Northanger Abby was a delightful read.   

Here are the reviews that we posted in July that fit into our 2011 Challenges.
Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier

Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

Here’s an update on our 2011 Challenge.  All the inspiring details can be found HERE.
Books to Movies Challenge – 2/6
Gothic Reading Challenge – 7/8
Back to the Classics – 7/8
What’s in a Name Challenge – 5/6
2nds Challenge – 19/20
100+ Reading Challenge – 76/100

As we look ahead to August, there is reason for considerable enthusiasm.  Something Rotten, One Hundred Years of Solitude, A Pale View of Hills, Three Men in a Boat, and Pippi Longstocking should provide us with a banner month!  How’s everyone else doing in their 2011 reading endeavors?  Send us a link so we can check out your progress!